Aviation In Canada

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Databoard (for real!)

Ok, here it is. I had to go to our simulator to avoid bothering the controllers on the floor. I took this picture of our basic databoard from low level as it would appear on our "midnight configuration" (except without any live flight plans). This is the term we use to describe how the sectors are configured, or consolidated, over the night shift in Moncton low level. As the daytime traffic dwindles, the various chunks of airspace we call sectors are slowly combined into larger chunks. The frequencies we use remain active, and each controller who receives the new airspaces also receives the responsibility for control, and the associated frequencies (and hotlines to other ATC units). As such, the databoard of the sector being combined is also "folded in" to the master sector. Ultimately, the traffic on the midnight shift in our small FIR (on low level only, high level remains split to some degree throughout the night) slows down to the point where one or two people can manage it, and it is all worked from the same workstation. This controller will end up with 19 frequencies and 16 hotlines all on his one communications panel (the simulator's panel and overall configuration differs somewhat, but the black panel in the lower right hand corner is like one of the comm panels we use).

You'll see in the picture the various fixes we post on our databoard, and they are all determined largely by the significant geographical points and by where we see the most common points of conflict in our routine traffic patterns. The real trick is to spot the ones that are not routine, since a cross of a common track and an uncommon track may not be shown under one of our headers. This is where the mental picture of the traffic, drawn by the placing of strips in the board, comes into play. For example, if an aircraft were to fly from CYYT to CYUL through our FIR, he might fly a routing of YYT J575 YQY J509 HUL and onwards, meaning he would end up being posted under YQY, YQM, YFC and HUL headers. This allows us to clearly picture where he is going, and also to examine other strips posted under these headers to see if there are any potential conflicts. Altitude is generally checked first. Two airplanes at the same altitude? Then look at routes. Common portion, or crossing portion? Look at the estimates (times) for the fix(es). Is there likely to be enough time or distance between them? No? Then control action may be necessary to separate the airplanes.

Anyway, here's the picture of the overview of the databoard. To the left hand side, off the image, would be the radar screen, and under the strip bays from left to right are the hotline buttons, then the printer, the little slots for filing strips that we're done with, and then the comm panel (this one would be used for the data position).

And here's a closeup of the YFC and YSJ headers so you can see some of the items of info we have on them. There are commonly used radials for reference (well, with more and more aircraft capable of RNAV direct, this information isn't referred to as often), as well as distances and frequencies for adjacent units and sectors, and phone lines and numbers for contact. The info on these strips, I notice now, is a little outdated in some cases, but it's enough to give you an idea. I guess I should mention this to someone before the next low level course starts...